I came here today to write about Thanksgiving before more time had passed, but I had a dream last night that stuck with me all day and I had to write it down. When I was writing about it, I realized how perfectly it fit in with what I had come here to write about in the first place. I’m afraid I won’t be able to put the dream into words as beautifully as it came to me, but I’m sharing it here anyway.
Last night I had a vivid dream that I was in a classroom. The teacher went around the room giving each student a different lesson. He wanted me to give a speech on the topic he gave me, and as far as I knew I was supposed to give the speech at the end of class so I was figuring out what I was going to say. As I was deep in brainstorming and working on my speech, he announced to the class that he wanted us all to pair up into groups for a different project altogether. Those first projects were meant for another time, something else had to come first.
Suddenly he realized that he would be leaving us and he only had a little time left to teach us one last lesson, and he wanted the entire class to focus on that one lesson. It dawned on him that the classroom overall was lacking an understanding that he felt was extremely important, and not only important, but an essential foundation for the other lessons he wanted to teach us. He was frustrated with his limited time, and there was an urgency to his teaching, he so desperately wanted for us to understand.
Each group of two or three was handed a dictionary that was the thinnest dictionary any of us had ever seen, with a brown leather cover. Our teacher told us to look up the word Gift. Under the word gift, it said that there were two types of gifts. It simply listed two words there- the two different types of gifts- with no further explanation. They were words I’d never seen before. (When I woke up I couldn’t remember the second word, but the first word was something like avience, not completely sure on the spelling, with another form of the word something like avienco. Prounounced, I believe, like ‘Aa-vee-en-say’, with the A sound like apple. Just for fun, I looked it up this morning in an online dictionary, which said it didn’t exist. But it wasn’t the word that was so important in the dream anyway, it was the meaning behind it.)
The second type of gift meant a physical gift, but the first type of gift- avience– was the one our teacher wanted us to learn about and understand. He had us look up those two words in our dictionary and on the page for avience there was a picture of what looked like an old, hand drawn map. It was beautiful, and looked like it had been painted with watercolors in subtle brown hues. The map showed a trip that someone had taken, but instead of dots on the map with labeled cities and towns, there was a single word next to each dot that represented a memory from the travels that had taken place in that location.
The first type of gift was not physical, rather it was the gift of a memory, experience, feeling. Our teacher was sharing with us that a physical gift could be given with love and bring joy to the person we gave it to, but avience was what gave any gift it’s true meaning. It was the truer gift, the one whose value needed to be recognized. There was such a huge focus on the physical -too much focus- and the other aspect needed to be noticed. He gave the reminder that when we left this world we couldn’t take anything physical with us, but all of our favorite memories with our loved ones would stay with us.
I woke up before the dream finished and was disappointed, I wanted to close my eyes and go back to it for awhile longer. Our teacher had communicated to us that he wanted us to work on our individual lesson, that he had first assigned us, after class. He wanted us to take days, weeks, years -whatever it took- to allow ourselves the time and space to fully understand it and absorb it into our being. He planted seeds that he wanted us to reflect on long after he was gone. But that lesson about gifts, that’s the one he wanted us to understand the most. He wanted us to know deeply what was really important, and to not let all the distractions of the world keep us from holding that truth close to our hearts.
I have so many favorite childhood memories of Thanksgiving at my Grandma and Grandpa Jensen’s house. I remember my Grandpa Jensen standing at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes, and later the creamy white mashed potatoes with the pretty gravy boat sitting next to them. I remember the corn harvested at the farm where my grandpa grew up. And the pies! I remember my grandma’s squash pie, the best pie in the world. I remember my uncle jokingly holding his belly and cracking jokes while he went back for another plate full. I remember the white table cloth and the birds coming to the bird feeder right outside the window. I remember sitting by the fire, content and full, listening to card games at the table and all the conversations going on around me.
And though the food was indeed delicious and memorable, what always stuck out in my memory most of course was that feeling of being surrounded by so many people I loved all at once, and how warm and safe and cozy that felt. It was a feeling of belonging, of being just where you’re meant to be. With aunts, uncles, and cousins all around… I was connected to my roots and my family tree. When I moved away after high school, I missed those Thanksgiving gatherings at my grandparents’ house deeply. Thanksgiving just never really felt the same to me when I wasn’t at their home with the whole crew, but my life had brought me to a new place and I was ready for that change, even though the holidays made me miss being there.
This year when I had the opportunity to go to my grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, for the first time in many years, I was so grateful. But more than wanting it for myself because I’d missed it so, I really wanted it for Bracken. I had told him stories about Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house when I was growing up and I wanted him to get to experience what it was like, to have it become part of his childhood memories too. Going back, there were things that were different and there were things that were the same. This year I stood at the kitchen sink, in a different house, and peeled the potatoes. With the peeler in my hand, I stood there thinking of my Grandpa Jensen, who I miss, and felt closer to him somehow. I imagined what he felt, listening to everyone around him, and doing a quiet and repetitive task to nourish those he loved.
My grandma baked six pies this year and she brought most of them to friends and neighbors. It’s something she loves to do each year and she said it’s one of her ways of saying that she is grateful to be alive. Bracken enjoyed his time at his great grandma’s so much, he came home with endless things he wanted to tell his dad about. We both savored our time there, appreciating it immensely. Tonight I’m thinking of my dream from last night and I’m thinking of our recent trip, and I’m feeling grateful for the gift of -memories, experiences, and feelings- the kind that warm me years later as I remember them.
All of those favorite memories you carry that make you smile or laugh out loud, the ones that are so precious they make you teary… let’s be reminded of what a gift they truly are. And let’s create many more with the ones we love.